Homeschooling, Part Two: Feedback

I received a lot of positive feedback from last week’s column on homeschooling. Three of the notes stood out because they offered more information that you’ll find important. Here they are with minor editing.

Reaction from a current homeschooler:

“I appreciated your perspective on homeschooling. We homeschool our 6 children (all boys) from 15 to 5 and have been doing it for 7 years now. I'd like to respond with a couple of my thoughts and if you think they're helpful or build a fuller, more recent picture feel free to edit, re-use, and otherwise quote any of my response wherever you like. You are absolutely correct that everywhere we've moved there have been homeschool groups. Some are much more open than others, but even in a very rural area near where we now live, there are three groups that meet places within an hour's drive. For people that live way out in rural areas, an hour drive for that sort of thing is about the expected maximum for a normal event, “normal” being once a week at the most frequent. The exceptional events are still worth it for two-hour drives, like to the "big city" (Evansville or Louisville). For example, our oldest plays the violin where the lessons once a week are an hour’s drive away.

“We've homeschooled in Wisconsin and now Indiana. I would advise against making your first contact the school district for understanding the rules. They very often don't actually know the rules or will give you the wrong information. The best resource to start with is an organization like the HSLDA which is a legal defense organization for homeschoolers. We're not members but I have considered becoming one. They've cataloged the state laws for every state at https://hslda.org/legal. After reading about your particular state (California is actually better than Washington State now), you can make your next move to follow that process. Sometimes the right move is to contact your school district. In almost every case, if your children are already enrolled in public school, you must notify the district that they will not be attending any longer. Indiana, Oklahoma, and Alaska are the best, by which I mean parents have the most freedom. Homeschooling is legal in every state, although some have lots of restrictions and rules.

“There are other considerations about homeschooling that may not have occurred to parents, even if they've already started homeschooling. Kids can do a full day of school work in 4 hours or less when motivated. For this reason, we had to adjust the rules a bit around the house. Instead of no tv or video games until after schoolwork is done, it was now scheduled as no tv or games until after 5 pm on weekdays. We've also gained a lot more freedom for family vacations. I don't have the seniority at work to take summer vacations. We can go on vacation whenever we want, with me being the limiting factor instead of school and me. We also don't usually stop school completely in the summer as traditional schools do.

“Lastly, for a fantastic resource, I will link you to the curriculum we use. It is 100% FREE if you choose to do everything online. https://allinonehomeschool.com/ It is Christian-based so it won't be suited for everyone but you also don't have to use all of it. If you want the age-appropriate math courses you're all set. We spend money to buy some of this curriculum because it's cheaper than printing it ourselves and some things work better by having a physical piece of paper to write on, cut out the things for projects, etc. There are also great parent tools to set the curriculum for your children. Every day they log into their page, click on the subject they're working on, and it will take them to the desired place. It will say what pages of the book (if they have it) instead of continuing to read that page on the site. The kids can mark what subjects they've finished for the day, which will show up on the parent portal. Parents can add other subjects that aren't part of the site, e.g. ‘violin practice for 30 minutes’ can be checked off by the child and we know if it was done for the day.” – M.G,

Thoughts on California and Filing as a Private School:

“Great article. I wanted to update one piece of info. California is great for homeschoolers. I file one piece of paper once a year and that is all. They’ve even made it so you can do it online or send it in via snail mail. The hardest part was coming up with a name for our homeschool. Just finishing up 20 years of homeschooling and we never had a problem. We even found a youth orchestra outside of the school system (many to choose from in Los Angeles) for one of my kids. Don’t want you to continue to discourage California homeschoolers. It is one of the easiest states, only Texas is easier. You may not even need the one form yearly in Texas.

“Here are links to two statewide groups explaining how to file as a “private school.” It is now called a PSA but when I first started it was a statement in lieu and I mailed it in. I loved it when they went online and it was a simple fill-in form which the statewide groups gave us a template on how to fill it out. I love CHN ( California Homeschool Network) and HSC (Homeschool Association of California) as it gave me conferences to take the kids to and many group camping trips.

“We also in recent years got free access to community colleges (CC), so my kids dual enrolled and graduated high school with college credits. The enrollment in community college while in high school is a bit of a variable from CC to CC, but the online groups help the newbies navigate the bureaucracy.

“We filed as a private school (amazing how few restrictions there are on private schools in California). I kept all the records (minimal - attendance and courses offered), but was never asked to show anyone. One kid went straight to a 4 year college and one has just applied to transfer from CC to a 4 year college. I ran a “small” homeschooling group in Pasadena (80 families). It was an interesting mix of Mormon, Presbyterian, and Atheist. It was also a mix of homeschooling types, some filing PSA (no rules), and some filing with a charter school. It started out as a PSA only group, but most now file with a charter school for the “free money” to buy curricula. The money has caused many to compromise and accept the rules and oversight of a charter school. How much money, you ask? Depends on the charter school. Up to $1800 a semester for an umbrella type school, to much less for a school providing a day or two a week in the classroom. There are many rules on how the money can be spent and any curriculum bought has to be turned in to the umbrella school at the end of the year if reusable. I’m biased toward the no oversight model myself, as you have figured out. While some parents won’t do a good job, I remind myself that California has a 85% high school graduation rate…so some slip through the cracks even with oversight.

Link to state site with graduation rates for fact check.

“I think the internet and state homeschooling groups gave people in the state a chance to band together and fund a few lawyers to make homeschooling nice in California.

“Thanks, John, for spreading the beauty of homeschooling!” – Unixchick

Insights from a Seasoned Veteran:

“As a former homeschool principal in Alaska, where homeschool families actually receive money from the district to homeschool, you are absolutely right about the kids being on board is 95% of it.

“In Alaska, the school district gets about $5,000 for each student. Smart districts in Alaska have figured out that they can ‘educate’ homeschooled kids for a lot less than that. My teachers had about 150 students on their ‘caseload’ and spent less than 2 hours a year with almost all those students. The families then get anywhere from $1,800-$2500 per child to homeschool them from the district.

“Before COVID, our homeschool was making money off the kids in homeschool, that the district could then use as they saw fit.

“When COVID happened, and all the schools closed, our district made the unwise decision to not allow kids to sign up for homeschool and we lost a ton of potential money, as most schools stayed closed at the beginning of this school year. That being said, we still almost quadrupled our homeschool students this year, and only had to hire 2 more teachers, so caseloads went up to about 200 kids per teacher. Still, not bad when you don’t have to spend much time on them.

“We moved down to Spokane this last summer, and, as we are homeschooling our three youngest, are bummed we don’t get an extra $6,000 from the state to do so.

“One minor correction, homeschool families don’t have to take the tests, they can show a report signifying to the state what their kids learned in a given year, or just take the tests.” -- Jethro Jones

Plenty of tips and tricks for you. – jcd

3/23/21